TUCSON, AZ (Tucson News Now) - It's a new type of going green.
University of Arizona researchers are studying green-light therapy to treat chronic pain and attack the opioid epidemic.
They say there are more than 100 million people suffering from chronic pain in the United States alone, costing our economy $600 billion a year.
Tucsonan Debi Lesneski had migraines, one right after another.
"It ruins your life. You have no time with your family. You have no time for work," Lesneski said.
Then her doctor asked her to try green-light therapy as part of a small study of people who had migraines or fibromyalgia.
Lesneski sits with her green light several feet away from her eyes, and stares at it for about 45 minutes, three to four times a week.
She listens to music or an audiobook while she's doing it.
"It reduced the pain so I wasn't going to back to Dr. (Mohab) Ibrahim in tears every week," Lesneski said. "I was able to work and function and spend time with my family."
"It's like raising from the dead instead of being in bed 24/7 and groaning in pain."
In fact, Lesneski hasn't had to see Ibrahim in eight months.
"Everyone is different, of course, but on average they reported pain reduction between 40 to 50 percent," Ibrahim said.
Ibrahim is the director of the Banner-University Medical Center South Comprehensive Pain Management Clinic and a University of Arizona associate professor anesthesiology and pharmacology.
You might wonder how the researchers came up with this idea.
"Dr. Ibrahim's brother suffers from migraine and he goes and sits amongst his trees and he feels better and that really was sort of the inspiration behind why and what we should try," said Dr. Rajesh Khanna, UA associate professor of pharmacology and senior author of the study.
The scientists say they know green light works, but they don't know how it works.
They now want to focus on understanding the fundamental mechanism.
"It increases the level of your endogenous opioids. So these are sort of natural, pain-killing hormones or chemicals that your body releases," Khanna said.
Both researchers caution, no one should run out and buy green lights just yet because the scientists really don't know enough about what they say is essentially a drug.
"The longer term issues are safety, of course. We need to know whether we're going to develop tolerance to it, whether we're going to have any side effects, as with any other drug," Khanna said.
The scientists also warn patients not make changes to their treatment without first talking to their doctors.
The researchers are very hopeful and they say, if all goes well, green-light therapy for pain could be on the market within two years.
"The hope is that this green-light therapy will help reduce the amount of other medications needed or reducing the potential for dependence on these medications," Ibrahim said.
When the study was over Lesneski refused to return her light.
"And actually, I'm carrying it in my car with me now in case I have some down time at work. I'll use it for the 45 minutes. Otherwise, I'll use it tonight when I get home."